The Big Chill
Another intriguing issue: The indictment describes Franklin's returning from one of his meetings with Gilon in May 2003 and drafting an "Action Memo to his supervisors, incorporating suggestions made by the FO during the meeting." This suggests the FBI may be interested not only in alleged leaks from Franklin to unauthorized recipients but in the possibility of Franklin's feeding information from those officials back into the system, in an effort to influence US policy toward Iran. This raises the question of whether the government thinks the nature of the conspiracy was not only a matter of unauthorized leaks but also a coordinated effort by Franklin and perhaps his alleged co-conspirators to shape the US policy environment in a kind of agent-of-influence scenario. The US Attorney's office declined to comment on the case.
The Nation has learned that among the documents the FBI has in its possession is a memo written by Rosen in 1983, soon after he joined AIPAC, to his then-boss describing his having been informed about the contents of a classified draft of a White House position paper concerning the Middle East and telling his boss that their inside knowledge of the draft might enable the group to influence the final document. The significance would seem to be an effort by the FBI to establish a pattern of Rosen's accessing classified information to which he was not authorized, not just from Franklin but over many years. Rosen's attorneys declined to comment on the allegation.
Stephen Green, a Vermont state legislator and former UN official who in the 1980s pursued independent scholarship critical of Israeli-US relations including by requesting through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) State Department documentation on counterintelligence probes, says the FBI's concerns about Rosen pre-date the September 2001 news leak incident. Green says in meetings with FBI investigators last year, "I was told by investigators that his name has showed up in wiretaps more than once over time," Green told The Nation. What's more, Green says, he believes the FBI considers Franklin only a little fish useful to getting Rosen.
Former FBI attorney Harvey Rishikof says that both theories, that this investigation is about leaking, or that it is motivated by graver counter- intelligence concerns, could be true. "They are not necessarily opposing theories," Rishikof told The Nation. "If you are worried about counterintelligence issues, and counterintelligence issues are also related to leak issues, so that individuals are using strategic leaks basically for counterintelligence purposes, you then link up the two threads...If you were the government, the leaks then become the method by which you are able to shut down what appears to be a counterintelligence problem."
The full picture of the government's case against Rosen will not emerge until an indictment is handed down, assuming there even is one. It is not even clear how he originally appeared on the FBI's radar screen. But if prosecutors focus on Rosen's alleged long-term cultivation of executive branch sources, who might have improperly shared with him privileged information about US national security deliberations, it's a twist on what we understand as a typical spy story, because such behavior, at least in its unclassified form, is the very currency of the capital: Washington lobbyists cultivating inside sources and trading information with them to influence policy.
Whether it was the FBI's intention or not, one result of the Franklin/AIPAC investigation, along with the jailing of Miller in the Wilson investigation, has been the fortressing of the executive branch; the danger is that this could enable the Bush Administration to shape policies with even less consultation from the public and Congress.